As this here blog has been linked in Rich Johnson’s comic gossip column Lying In The Gutters, I seem to be attracting a few more readers of a graphic-fiction-sequential-art mind. Welcome, welcome – hope you’ll come for the comics but stay for … er, well, more than just that, I guess.

Anyway, I wanted to ask the comics-knowledgeable amongst you for advice or recommendations on a specific theme; I’m fairly au fait with what’s going on in the UK and US mainstream (and occasionally the small press), but am only just starting to venture further into reading manga.

The problem I have is that there seem to be just so many titles to choose from, and I’m looking for pointers on stuff of interest. I’m less aware of what I’m after than what I want to avoid, if that makes sense – I’m not really interested in post-apocalyptic stuff (I liked the film of Akira, but got a bit bored after the first few issues of the Epic translation) or fantasy stuff with dragons and the like in, and I’m not really looking for anything featuring psychic schoolgirls and/or panty shots (this latter aspect made me less keen on Battle Royale v1, which I read recently, and the violence and pantie-flashing seemed a bit calculated, though the linework was nice).

Manga I have read and enjoyed are:

Lone Wolf and Cub – Read the entire series (in the really rather delightfully-sized Dark Horse reprints), and though it was a bit long, it was always interesting, especially as the over-arching plots became clear.

Old Boy – recently finished this, and though the ending didn’t justify the length or the bad guy’s motivation at all to my mind, it was well-drawn. I preferred the film, but this was enjoyable enough to read.

Death Note – I’m seven volumes into this now, and am enjoying it a lot. For a book which often features people standing round talking or thinking, it’s genuinely exciting in places, and the characters are interesting if not necessarily likeable. There’s a fantasy element to this one, yes, but the real-world grounding of it works for me.

Monster – Oddly enough, I picked this up after it was recommended by Masi Oka (who plays Hiro in ‘Heroes’) in an interview, and I’m only just starting the second book, but I like the general mood and premise, so I’ll probably continue.

Buddha – I’m onto the third volume of this, and can see why Tezuka’s so well respected; there’s sense of fun and pace to it all, as well as it being the story of a chap I’m genuinely interested in.

… and that’s about it. As I say, I’m not mad keen on the kind of stories mentioned above, but then again, if there’s a really good story about a psychic schoolgirl that I really, REALLY ought to read, then just ignore my prejudices and recommend away. It’s not as if I haven’t been wrong on things before, after all.

If you’ve got recommendations (or even warnings about works to avoid), please feel free to post a comment. I’m genuinely keen to learn more about manga, and as it seems that there are a lot of different genres within it, I feel rather spoiled for choice. So if you could let me know stuff you’ve read and enjoyed, I’d appreciate it (and so would my wallet, as it’ll save me wasting my hard-earned).

And for the jokers amongst you, no I don’t think I want to read loads of Yaoi or Shojo stuff (blimey, there’s a whole new set of terms for me to learn, isn’t there?)…